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Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. In bivariate analyses, pre-debut depressive symptoms were associated with earlier sexual debut among female but not male adolescents. In models adjusting for demographic characteristics and pre-debut depressive symptoms, sexual debut was positively related to adolescent Wave II depressive symptomatology, but only among female adolescents age less than sixteen. However, sexual debut timing was unassociated with emerging adult Wave III depressive symptomatology for both male and female respondents.

Findings suggest sexual debut timing does not have implications for depressive symptomatology beyond adolescence. The claim that adolescent sexual activity causes psychological harm has been used as one key rationale for current U. As in later life, adolescent sexual activity may lead to unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

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Despite these ificant population changes, nearly half of persons in the U. If claims about the health risks posed by adolescent sexual debut are correct, one might expect a cascade of negative consequences into emerging adulthood. In the present study, we explored this possibility in relation to depression. Potential linkages between adolescent sexual debut and depression are of particular interest.

Investigation of the association between sexual debut and depression has been contentious, with different analyses supporting opposite-causal directions, suggesting the possibility of a bi-directional relationship. Longmore et al.

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Also using Add Health data, Hallfors et al. These authors used a dichomotized indicator for high depressive symptomatology as the predictor, and specified the outcome as clusters of health risk behaviors including alcohol use, cigarette use, drug use, of sexual partners, and risky sexual behavior e.

However, given that the outcome studied was not limited to sexual initiation, it is unclear whether these indicate no relationship between depressive symptoms and sexual initiation in particular. Other researchers have postulated that depression is a consequence of sexual initiation, because sexual activity during adolescence is generally thought to be inappropriate Smith,and often accompanied by negative changes in relationships with parents and other conventional institutions Ream, Hallfors et al.

Although there were a couple of exceptions i. Although not directly comparable, a more recent study by Meier also found that sexual debut was associated with depressive symptoms at one-year follow-up, but only for female adolescents who debuted before age 16 or whose relationships were short-lived after sexual initiation Meier, Together these findings suggest that the effects of debut on adolescent depressive symptoms may be specific to girls, and, according to the Meier study, debut at a young age.

In this model, affective e. If female adolescents are more likely than male adolescents to perceive their first intercourse experience or its subsequent relationship outcome as a negative life event, then, in the context of factors such as those noted above, sexual debut could lead to depressive symptoms. The findings above suggest a link between sexual debut and adolescent depressive symptoms, at least under some circumstances.

However, it is unclear whether sexual debut timing may relate to later life depressive symptomatology. How earlier life experiences and later health are connected, however, varies across different models. One relevant linear model of development is the stage termination hypothesis. Adult seeking sex Waller the case of sexual debut, individuals who initiate early may not have the capacity for anticipating the potential consequences of sexual activity, and therefore inadequately protect themselves from these potential consequences.

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For example, it has been suggested that young adolescents do not have the cognitive maturity to plan for or adhere to health regimens that may be necessary to protect against sexual activity consequences i. Therefore, consistent with a linear model of development, it is possible that depressive episodes precipitated by sexual initiation could impact mental health outcomes beyond adolescence.

On the other hand, there are also theoretical and clinical reasons to hypothesize that sexual debut timing and mental health in emerging adulthood will not necessarily be related, or may be related in non-obvious ways. However, consistent with the possibilities proposed in transactional models of development, most persons eventually acclimate to their new developmental status and normative functioning Graber et al. Given that sexual initiation is statistically normative during adolescence, associations with depressive symptoms in other studies across a relatively brief period may be transitory, especially if subsequent relationships are positive experiences.

Therefore, if the depressive symptoms elicited by sexual initiation represent a more episodic form of depression, one might expect no relationship between adolescent sexual initiation and emerging adult depressive symptoms. The primary purpose of this study was to better understand the developmental and health implications of the timing of sexual debut by examining whether the timing of sexual debut is related to depressive symptomatology beyond adolescence.

This study builds on prior studies that have only examined depressive symptom outcomes within a short approximately one-year period after sexual debut. Given some contradictions in the literature regarding the relationship between adolescent sexual debut and pre-existing depressive symptomatology, we began by testing the necessity of controlling for baseline depressive symptomatology.

Baseline depressive symptoms will be positively related to earlier compared to later subsequent sexual debut, but only among female adolescents. Baseline depressive symptomatology will be positively associated with later depressive symptoms. We expected that baseline depressive symptomatology would be ificantly associated with both an earlier timing of sexual debut among female adolescents and later depressive symptomatology. Such expectations were consistent with the one study specifically Adult seeking sex Waller the relationship between depressive symptoms and subsequent sexual debut Longmore et al.

Our sex-specific hypothesis was based on the observation in the Longmore et al. We also explored the relationship between adolescent sexual debut and subsequent depressive symptomatology during adolescence, because there have been contradictory findings regarding this association.

Sexual debut between Waves I and II will be positively related to depressive symptoms at Wave II only among female adolescents age less that This hypothesis was consistent with the one study specifically examining differences according to relative sexual debut timing Meier, Sexual debut timing will be unrelated to depressive symptomatology in emerging adulthood for both male and female participants. This hypothesis was based on a transactional model of development. That is, we propose that barring ificant stress-vulnerability and a series of negative life events that perpetuate long-term depressive symptoms, most individuals who experienced depressive symptoms in the short term were expected to acclimate to and move beyond immediate consequences.

Add Health is a nationally representative survey of U. Over 90, adolescents in schools participated in the Wave I in-school survey, with 20, also completing subsequent in-depth home interviews —95 school Adult seeking sex Waller.

Restriction of the sample to those who debuted after Wave I was necessary to ascertain the temporal order of depressive symptoms and sexual debut, given past findings of depressive symptoms predicting sexual debut Longmore et al. Exclusion of persons older than 22 at Wave III was necessary because persons age 23 and older who reported never having sexual intercourse at Wave I were not eligible to be part of the earliest debut timing group.

Further, we wished to avoid issues of sample selectivity Adult seeking sex Waller would occur in older age groups where sexual debut prior to Wave I would be more common. The original item CES-D inquires about the past week frequency of 20 depressive symptoms, reported on a zero rarely or never to three most or all of the time scale.

To create comparable depressive symptom scores at all waves so that baseline depressive symptoms scores could be controlled foronly the nine items asked at all three waves were included in the summary score. Summary scores were calculated only if all nine constituent items were non-missing. The CES-D has been used as a screening instrument for major depressive disorder in adolescent populations. In the current analysis, proportionately adjusted cut points of 10 for male participants and 11 for female participants were used to create a dichotomous indicator of likely clinically ificant depressive symptom levels.

For analyses assessing associations between sexual debut and short-term depressive symptom outcomes i. Because the analytic sample was restricted to those who had not initiated vaginal sexual intercourse by Wave I, an affirmative response to this question indicates sexual debut between Waves I and II. In analyses examining the association between sexual debut timing and emerging adult Wave III depressive symptom outcomes, sexual debut timing was derived from Wave III self-report of age in years when the respondent first had vaginal sexual intercourse.

Use of the Wave III report was necessary to accurately classify relative debut timing for those respondents who initiated vaginal sexual activity after their last adolescent interview Wave II. Perfect division into thirds was not possible, however, because of a tight clumping of respondents who reported debut between ages 16— Separate categorization by gender was not necessary, because the boundaries for debut timing for male and female participants were the same.

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There are a of factors that have been empirically associated with both the timing of sexual debut and depressive symptoms. These include sociodemographic factors as well as other individual differences e. For parsimony, we began by using only sociodemographic factors and Wave I depression as controls, with the plan to expand the of controls if appropriate. Age at Wave I was included as a control variable and was examined as a potential modifier for analyses examining associations between debut between Waves I and II and Wave II depressive symptomatology.

Age at Wave III interview was included as a control variable in analyses examining associations between sexual debut timing and Wave III depressive symptomatology. Analyses were conducted in Stata 9. All bivariate and multivariable analyses were performed stratified by biological sex, given past findings of sex differences in the association between sexual activity and depressive symptoms Waller Adult seeking sex Waller al. Descriptive statistics unweighted sample sizes and weighted proportions were generated to characterize sample sociodemographic characteristics, as well as the distribution of sexual debut timing and depressive symptomatology.

To test the association between baseline depressive symptoms and timing of sexual debut Hypothesis 1achi-square analyses were employed. Tests of the relationship between baseline and later depressive symptoms Hypothesis 1b were incorporated in analyses for Hypotheses 2 and 3. To characterize the association between sexual debut and short-term depressive symptoms Hypothesis 2we used multivariable logistic regression models, including the dichotomous indicator for debut between Waves I and II, sociodemographic and Wave I depressive symptomatology control variables, and an interaction between Wave I age and the sexual debut indicator.

Adult seeking sex Waller, to investigate associations between sexual debut timing and emerging adult depressive symptom outcomes Hypothesis 3bivariate and multivariable logistic regression analyses were performed including sociodemographic and Wave I depressive symptom control variables, as well as sexual debut timing indicator variables.

from descriptive analyses are presented in Table 1. As per the sample inclusion criteria, the age of respondents at Wave III ranged from 18 to 22; The majority of the sample reported their race as white The majority of respondents reported living with both biologic parents The prevalence of high depressive symptomatology was ificantly higher for female participants than for male participants at all three waves.

Prevalence of demographic characteristics, high depressive symptomatology, and sexual debut timing in the study population. To assess the necessity of controlling for baseline depressive symptomatology, we began by testing Hypothesis 1a, using chi-square analyses to examine the crude bivariate relationship between baseline depressive symptoms and the timing of subsequent sexual debut. Tests of the relationship between baseline and later depressive symptomatology Hypothesis 1b are embedded in analyses for hypotheses two and three.

Consistent with our expectations, among Adult seeking sex Waller participants, high baseline depressive symptomotology was ificantly more prevalent for early and typical initiators compared to late initiators However, among male participants, baseline depressive symptoms were unrelated to timing of sexual debut 6. To conduct analyses similarly by sex, indicators for pre-debut depressive symptomatology were maintained in subsequent multivariable analyses.

We next tested hypothesis 2 by assessing whether the relationship between sexual debut and subsequent depressive symptoms during adolescence varied by age and sex. Sexual debut between Waves I and II was ificantly related to Wave II depressive symptom outcomes, but this association was moderated by sex and age Figure 1.

For female adolescents, after controlling for sociodemograhic characteristics and baseline depressive symptoms, the positive association between sexual debut and subsequent depressive symptomatology decreased with age; by age 16, sexual debut was no longer ificantly associated with subsequent depressive symptoms. For male adolescents, sexual debut was not ificantly associated with subsequent depressive symptoms at any age. Female models also included a cross-product interaction between age and sexual initiation status.

Finally, we tested our third hypothesis by examining whether sexual debut timing was related to depressive symptomatology in emerging adulthood. Bivariate and multivariable logistic regression for female participants are presented in Table 2. In bivariate analyses, a of sociodemograhic characteristics were positively associated with high depressive symptomatology in emerging adulthood. Black race, not living with both biologic parents in adolescence and low parent education less than high school diploma were positively associated with emerging adult depressive symptomatology. To test the robustness of the findings to the dependent variable specification, we also ran OLS models using the continuous version of the depression score; were equivalent available from the authors on request.

Sexual debut timing and emerging adult depressive symptomatology: Logistic regressionFemale Participants. Table 3 presents bivariate and multivariable logistic regression for male participants. Sexual debut timing and emerging adult depressive symptomatology: Logistic regressionMale Participants.

Although past research has found that adolescent sexual debut is positively associated with adolescent depressive symptoms among some adolescents, the implications of sexual debut timing for mental health beyond adolescence are unknown. The present study examined whether sexual debut timing is related to emerging adult depressive symptomatology, after controlling for adolescent sociodemographic characteristics and pre-existing depressive symptoms.

There are three major findings. First, both hypotheses 1a and 1b were supported. Similar to Longmore et al.

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Sexual Debut Timing and Depressive Symptoms in Emerging Adulthood